Author Archives

Literariness is an open access collection of notes inviting everyone to explore the unfathomable English Language, Literature, and Theory. Feel free to discover and share knowledge.
Contributor: Nasrullah Mambrol

  • Modernist Metropolis

    Modernism was the first literary movement to take urban life as a given, as a form of experience that was categorically different from any other kind of life. Baudelaire was fascinated by the “flaneur”, the man who strolls the city… Read More ›

  • Modernist Use of Myth

    In an age that was wrought with scientism, technology and loss of spirituality, many of the major modernist writers realised and asserted the employment of integrative mythology in order to give “shape and significance” to the contemporary fragmented reality. The… Read More ›

  • Modernism: Literature between the Wars

    In 1924, Virginia Woolf wrote, “On or about December 1910 human nature changed. All human relations shifted, and when human relations change there is at the same time a change in religion, conduct, politics and literature.” It was an era… Read More ›

  • Decanonisation

    In the wake on Postmodernist critique of modernism and liberal humanism, and with the vogue of Derridean deconstruction and decentering of the subject/centre, the Western canon of “great” books, not only in literature but in all areas of humanistic study,… Read More ›

  • Julia Kristeva: Intertextuality

    A term popularised by Julia Kristeva in her analysis of Bakhtin’s concepts Dialogism and Carnival, intertextuality is a concept that informs structuralist poststructuralist deliberations in its contention that individual texts are inescapably related to other texts in a matrix of… Read More ›

  • The Yale Critics

    The Yale School is the name given to an influential group of literary critics, theorists, and philosophers of literature who were influenced by Jacques Derrida’s philosophy of deconstruction. Many of the theorists were affiliated with Yale University in the late… Read More ›

  • Aporia

    The word “aporia” originally came from Greek which, in philosophy, meant a philosophical puzzle or state of being in puzzle, and a rhetorically useful expression of doubt. In contemporary theoretical parlance, the term has more been associated with deconstructive criticism,… Read More ›

  • Deconstruction

    Deconstruction involves the close reading of texts in order to demonstrate that any given text has irreconcilably contradictory meanings, rather than being a unified, logical whole. As J. Hillis Miller, the preeminent American deconstructionist, has explained in an essay entitled Stevens’… Read More ›

  • Jacques Derrida: Transcendental Signified

    Upholding the notion of decentering, Derrida asserts that a “fixed” structure is a myth, and that all structures desire “immobility” beyond free play, which is impossible. The assumption of a centre expresses the desire for a “reassuring certitude” which stands… Read More ›

  • Derrida’s Formulation of Ecriture

    Derrida’s formulation of “ecriture” emerges from his criticism of the most significant binaries of speech and writing. Discussing these binaries in his essay Signature Event Context (1972), in an attempt to reorient the established hierarchy of speech over wrifing, (what he… Read More ›

  • Derrida: Trace and Play

    With the death of the author as theorised by Barthes, the text gets liberated and revels in an endless free !ay of meanings, and escapes from all forms of textual authoriy. As words/ signs erupt into multitudes of signifiers that differ and… Read More ›

  • Derrida’s Concept of Differance

    A concept introduced by Derrida, differance is a pun on “difference” and “deferment”, and is that attribute of language, by which meaning is generated because of a word’s difference from other words in a signifying system, and at the same… Read More ›

  • Derrida’s Notion of the Centre

    Decentering in poststructuralism is a consequence of Derrida’s critique of binary oppositions, especially of speech/writing, where he accused Saussure of privileging speech over writing, owing to the presence, and authority of the speaker. Terming it as phonocentrism, which is a manifestation… Read More ›

  • Derrida’s Critique of Logocentrism

    Derrida’s concept of deconstruction displaced structuralism and undertook to decentre or subvert the traditional claims for the existence of all foundations such as knowledge, meaning, truth and the subject. Derrida identifies in all of Western philosophic traditions, a logocentrism or… Read More ›

  • Jacques Derrida’s Structure, Sign and Play

    Derrida’s Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences, a paper he presented at the John Hopkins University in 1966, launched poststructuralism into literary theory.   In this essay, Derrida attempts to 1) characterise certain features of the… Read More ›

  • Philosophical Influences on Poststructuralism

    Unlike structuralism that derived from linguistics, poststructuralism owes its origin to philosophy, which as a discipline, always tends to emphasise the difficulty in achieving complete and secure knowledge about things. This point is encapsulated in Nietzsche’s famous remark: “There are… Read More ›


    The second half of the twentieth century, with its torturous experiences of the World Wars, Holocaust and the advent of new technologies, witnessed revolutionary developments in literary theory that were to undermine several of the established notions of Western literary… Read More ›

  • Myth Criticism of Northrop Frye

    Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism (1957) introduced the archetypal approach called Myth Criticism, combining the typological interpretation of the Bible and the conception of imagination prevalent in the writings of William Blake. Frye continued the formalist emphasis of New Criticism… Read More ›

  •  Structuralist Narratology 

    Espoused by Tzvetan Todorov and Roland Barthes, Structuralist narratology illustrates how a story’s meaning develops from its overall structure (the langue) rather than from each individual story’s isolated theme (the parole). According to Aristotle, all narratives develop longitudinally, from beginning to… Read More ›

  • Claude Levi Strauss’ Concept of Bricolage

    In The Savage Mind (1962), the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss used the word bricolage to describe the characteristic patterns of mythological thought. Bricolage is the skill of using whatever is at hand and recombining them to create something new. Levi-Strauss… Read More ›

  • Claude Levi Strauss’ Structural Anthropology

    Applying Saussurean, principles to the realm of anthropology, Claude Levi. Strauss in his Structuralist Anthropology (1958) analysed cultural phenomena includinig mythology, kinship and food preparation. Employing the concepts of langue and parole in his search for the fundamental structures of the human… Read More ›

  • Roland Barthes’ Concept of Mythologies

    Differing from the Saussurean view that the connection between the signifier and signified is arbitrary, Barthes argued that this connection, which is an act of signification, is the result of collective contract, and over a period of time, the connection… Read More ›

  • Roland Barthes’ Analysis of Balzac’s Sarrasine

    Barthes’ analysis of Balzac’s Sarassin in S/Z (1970) has led to some major development in poststructuralist theory. Barthes identifies two main types of literature, roughly corresponding to the 19th century realist novel and the twentieth century experimental modernist novel. Traditionally, the realist… Read More ›

  • Roland Barthes’ Concept of Readerly and Writerly Texts

    One of the seminal contributions of Roland Barthes, a versatile literary and cultural critic and semiologist, was the poststructuralist distinction between two main types of texts roughly corresponding to nineteenth century realism and twentieth century experimental modernism. In his 1970… Read More ›

  • Roland Barthes’ Concept of Death of the Author

    Roland Barthes’ Death of the Author (1968) plays a pioneering role in contemporary theory as it encapsulates certain key ideas of poststructuralist theory and also marks Barthes’ transition from structuralism to poststructuralism. The title itself, in a rhetorical way announces… Read More ›

  • Roland Barthes’ Contribution to Literary Criticism

    Embodying a transformation from structuralism to poststructuralism, Roland Barthes, though initially characterised by a Marxist perspective, extended structural analysis and semiology to broad cultural phenomena, and promulgated and popularised the poststructuralist notions of “the death of the author”, of the… Read More ›

  • Semiotics/ Semiology

    A highly influential branch of study, Semiotics or the study of signs, can be considered the foundation for literary theory. Many of the revolutionary theories of the twentieth century, such as Structuralism and Poststructuralism, Structural Anthropology (Levi-Strauss), Psychoanalysis (Lacan), Cultural… Read More ›

  • Linguistic Sign

    Announcing a revolutionary change in the study of language, which had been hitherto philological, Saussure with his Course in General Linguistics (1916), introduced Structural Linguistics, which considers language as a system of signs constructed by cultural conventions. Constituting of a… Read More ›

  • Saussurean Structuralism

    Saussure introduced Structuralism in Linguistics, marking a revolutionary break in the study of language, which had till then been historical and , philological. In his Course in General Linguistics (1916), Saussure saw language as a system of signs constructed by… Read More ›

  • Structuralism

    The advent of critical theory in the post-war period, which comprised various complex disciplines like linguistics, literary criticism, Psychoanalytic criticism, structuralism, postcolonialism etc., proved hostile to the liberal consensus which reigned the realm of criticism between the 1930s and `50s. Among… Read More ›

  • New Criticism’s Relation to Modernism

    New Criticism and Modernism emerged out of a world that was perceived as fragmented, with the Enlightenment ideals of rationality, progress and justice discredited; the artist alienated from the social and political world, and art and literature marginalised. The vast… Read More ›

  • Chicago School (Neo-Aristotelians)

    The Chicago School of critics or the Neo Aristotelians included professors of the departments of Humanities, University of Chicago, who were engaged in bringing about a radical transformation in an attempt to revive Humanities and make them institutionally more competitive… Read More ›

  • Connotation and Denotation

    Denotation and connotation are crucial concepts in semiotics, structuralism, Marxism, cultural studies and in the entire realm of literary and cultural theory. Denotation refers to the primary signification or reference – the definitional, literal, obvious meaning of a sign. In… Read More ›

  • Hillis Miller’s Concept of Critic as Host

    The prominent Yale critic, J. Hillis Miller’s The Critic as host could be viewed as a reply to M.H. Abrams The Deconstructive Angel, which he presented at a session of the Modern Language-Association in December 1976, criticizing deconstruction and the methods… Read More ›

  • IA Richards’ Concept of the Two Uses of Language

    IA Richards, the New Critic, who, since Coleridge, formulated a systematic and complete theory of poetry, discusses in Principles of Literary Criticism the theory of language and the two uses of language the scientific and the emotive. David Daiches says,… Read More ›

  • William Empson’s Concept of Ambiguity

    Empson, a student of IA Richards, in (1930) promulgates a radically new approach to the language of poetry – to the multiple semantic possibilities of individual words, and to the frequent openness of English syntax to more than one construction…. Read More ›

  • IA Richards’ Concept of Four Kinds of Meaning

    IA Richards’ concept of four kinds of meaning has played a very significant role in New Criticism and modern tensional poetics. Pointing to the difficulty of all reading and of arriving at a universal meaning, Richards, in his Practical Criticism… Read More ›

  • Roman Jakobson’s Concepts of Metaphor and Metonymy

    In his 1956 essay, Two Aspects of Language and-Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances, Jakobson proposes that language has a bipolar structure, oscillating between the poles of metaphor and metonymy, and that any discourse is developed along the semantic lines of… Read More ›

  • Cleanth Brooks’ Concept of Language of Paradox

    Cleanth Brooks, an eminent New Critic, advocates the centrality of paradox as a way of understanding and interpreting poetry, in his best-known works, The Language of Paradox, The Well Wrought Urn (1947) and “Modern Poetry and the Tradition” (1939). Brooks… Read More ›

  • FR Leavis’ Concept of Great Tradition

    FR Leavis’  (1948), an uncompromising critical and polemical survey of English fiction, controversially begins thus: “The great English novelists are Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James and Joseph Conrad!’ He regards these writers as the best because they not only… Read More ›

  • Moral formalism: F. R. Leavis

    F. R. Leavis became the major single target for the new critical theory of the 1970s. Both Raymond Williams in Politics and Letters (1979) and Terry Eagleton in Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983) bear witness to his enormous, ubiquitous influence in English Studies from the 1930s… Read More ›

  • The American New Critics

    American New Criticism, emerging in the 1920s and especially dominant in the 1940s and 1950s, is equivalent to the establishing of the new professional criticism in the emerging discipline of ‘English’ in British higher education during the inter-war period. As always, origins and… Read More ›

  • Roman Jakobson’s Contribution to Literary Studies: An Essay

    The work of Roman Jakobson occupies a central place in the development of Formalism and Structuralism. A linguist from Moscow, Jakobson co-founded the Moscow Linguistic Circle in 1915, and along:with Viktor Shklovsky and Boris Eichenbaum, he was involved in yet… Read More ›

  • Defamiliarization

    The Russian Formalists’ concept of “Defamiliarization”, proposed by Viktor Shklovsky in his Art as Technique, refers to the literary device whereby language is used in such a way that ordinary and familiar objects are made to look different. It is… Read More ›

  • Affective Fallacy

    An important concept in New Criticism, coined by Wimsatt and Beardsley in an essay in The Verbal Icon, Affective Fallacy refers to the supposed error of judging or evaluating a text on the basis of its emotional effects on a… Read More ›

  • Intentional Fallacy

    One of the critical concepts of New Criticism, “Intentional Fallacy” was formulated by Wimsatt and Beardsley in an essay in The Verbal Icon (1946) as the mistake of attempting to understand the author’s intentions when interpreting a literary work. Claiming… Read More ›

  • Close Reading: A Brief Note

    A technique advocated by the New Critics in interpreting a literary work, Close Reading derived from (I A Richards’s Practical Criticism (1929) and William Empson’s The Seven Types of Ambiguity(1930). Endorsing the concept of “autotelic text”, that a text is… Read More ›

  • Autotelic Text: A Brief Note

    The New Critical notion of the autotelic text as self-contained and independent of the author, genre or historical context, was associated with Arnold’s insistence on objectivity and Eliot’s on impersonality. Such a text that contains meaning within itself is humanist… Read More ›

  • Russian Formalism: An Essay

    Russian Formalism, which emerged around 1915 and flourished in the 1920s, was associated with the OPOJAZ (Society for the Study of Poetic Language) and with the Moscow Linguistic Society (one of the leading figures of which was Roman Jakobson) and… Read More ›

  • The New Criticism of JC Ransom

    The seminal manifestos of the New Criticism was proclaimed by John Crowe Ransom (1888–1974), who published a series of essays entitled The New Criticism (1941) and an influential essay, “Criticism, Inc.,” published in The World’s Body (1938). This essay succinctly expresses a… Read More ›

  • New Criticism: An Essay

    New Critics attempted to systematize the study of literature, and develop an approach that was centred on the rigorous study of the text itself. Thus it was distinctively formalist in character, focusing on the textual aspects of the text such as rhythm, metre, imagery and metaphor, by the method of close reading, as against reading that on the basis of external evidences such as the history, author’s biography or the socio-political/cultural conditions of the text’s production. Although the New Critics were against Coleridge’s Impressionistic Criticism, they seem to have inherited his concept of the poem as a unified organic whole which reconciles its internal conflicts and achieves a fine balance.

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